It could be said that the technology industry counts its life in dog years. One year in IT is like seven years of progress rolled into one compared to just about any other industry. Toaster manufacturers must be lividly envious.
2006 should prove to be a particularly monumental year in tech, with several broad technology streams finally galvanising and starting to deliver on the abstract promises they made a few years ago. Convergence, ubiquitous connectivity, virtualisation, Web 2.0; 2006 will become known as the year when technology came together.
In this feature we'll take a look at what we can expect from the world of tech this year, what technologies and products we expect to be big, and how they will impact our lives. By all accounts, 2006 is set to be an exciting year for technology and will truly herald a new generation of computing.
The story so far
This isn't to say 2005 wasn't also a big year for tech, although it will more likely be remembered for the foundations it laid for the future of technology, rather than for any particular breakthroughs that happened during the year.
Probably the biggest developments in technology in 2005 happened online. Google was the company leading the way, pioneering a range of online services that saw the concept of 'Web services' actually bare fruit. 'Podcast' was also named word of the year by the American Oxford dictionary, showing the prevalence of tech buzzwords in mainstream language. Blogs also came into mainstream awareness, with them replacing the old Geocities home page as people's individual portal, and contribution, to cyberspace.
On the PC front, 2005 was significant because of the introduction of two new technologies that fundamentally take PC performance into a new era. The first is 64-bit, which has actually been with us for a while with AMD's Athlon 64 range of processors, but was introduced into Intel's line through the EM64T extensions, making it more or less the standard across the spectrum of high-end desktop processors. The second major development was the introduction of dual core CPUs, which marks a shift away from the old paradigm of higher and higher frequency single core processors.
Other PC technologies also matured into mainstream use, such as Serial ATA, DDR-2 RAM, PCI Express and DVI connectors for flat screen displays. However, on the software front, 2005 was a relatively quiet year, notable for its lack of major desktop releases by Microsoft - not even a Service Pack for Window XP in 2005. That's not to say a number of significant products and updates didn't enter the market, possibly the most notable being Adobe's Creative Suite 2 bundles, which include elements from Macromedia, which Adobe acquired early in 2005.
2005 also saw two new players enter the 3G market: Vodafone and Optus. Both kicked off their new networks with a range of new services, including video calls, games and music downloads. Telstra also entered the wireless broadband market using its 3G network as the backbone, and extending wireless broadband coverage beyond the bounds of Sydney and Melbourne, which are serviced to varying degrees by Unwired and iBurst.
ADSL2 also generated quite a bit of interest, with ISPs such as Internode and iiNet blowing Telstra's 1.5Mbit ADSL limit out of the water by offering speeds of up to 12Mbit over conventional copper.
Portable music players, and the iPod in particular, also had a big year, with Apple's range continuing to dominate. That leadership was further helped by the much anticipated launch of the iTunes Music Store here in Australia, which dramatically increased the levels of competition amongst online music stores. The legal download sites arguably also received a boost from the continued and very public court cases against peer to peer file sharing companies. Kazaa came under fire here in Australia, and WinMX closed its network entirely (although a quick hack to your 'hosts' file can open it back up again).
Digital television also started to make an impact in 2005, after several years of very slow uptake. Digital set top boxes reached a new low in prices, getting down below the $100 mark. It was also a big year for high definition content, with many of the most popular US shows, such as Desperate Housewives and Lost, being broadcast in HD.
PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) also had a decent year, although the lack of an integrated and open EPG (electronic programme guide) continued to put the breaks on PVR uptake. Windows Media Center also had a mediocre year, but the concept of convergence was beginning to catch on, especially as demonstrated by devices such as the Sonos Digital Music System.
2005 was also the year when flat screen televisions truly became a viable, and affordable, alternative to regular CRTs. Capping off a big year for flat screen TVs was Acer's impressive 32 inch widescreen high definition LCD, which can be found for the unprecedented price of under $2000.
Sadly, it wasn't all good news for technology in 2005. The year was also the biggest ever in terms of security threats, with a 48 percent increase in new malware threats, and a staggering one in every 44 emails carrying a virus, according to the Sophos Security Threat Management Report 2005.
2005 laid the foundations for the future, with things such as Google's Web services, multicore processors, the 3G networks and digital television. However, it's 2006 that will bring these disparate elements together into whole Gestalt entities under the broad banner of convergence.